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January 2023 Artist of the Month: Teri Garner

LaVerne Kyriss | Published on 1/17/2023

Terri Garner began exploring art later in life. “I had a vivid imagination as a child and was
surrounded by talented, creative people. I was always interested in creating things and trying out new
ideas. I tried coloring my hair, redecorating rooms and other adventures,” she remembered. “I learned
lots of crafts from my extended family, but I never explored the arts.”
“After I retired and we moved to SaddleBrooke I explored a lot of media and styles. I took online
and in-person classes. One of my instructors said something that stuck with me: ‘Do what you love and
your creativity will expand.’ I had become interested in collage and that’s what started my journey,” she
explained.
“I love animals and dogs particularly so I started filling my sketch book with drawings of dogs. I
drew different breeds, different expressions and focused on details—noses, mouths, fur. I saw a collage
of a dog and thought I would try that,” Garner noted.
“We had adopted a shelter animal so Libby became my first subject. I posted the result on
Facebook and got lots of positive response. So now I create caricature collage pet portraits. These are
not fully realistic but capture the essence and personality of the particular pet,” she said. “I focus on the
eyes and the expressions of the specific pet. My creations are a hybrid of paintings and collage.”
The work requires lots of patience. Garner starts with a photo of the pet and a conversation
with the owner to learn about the particular animal. She sketches the pet in a variety of poses and
settles on the one that she thinks best captures its personality. Then the work begins to choose the
colors that will be included in the portrait.
Garner has a wide variety of papers for collage. Many are ones she’s hand-painted with various
patterns. “I spend hours and hours picking papers. If I don’t have what I want, I paint it, using stencils.
Freehand and other techniques. I use a variety or rice and other papers, song sheets, tissue and even old
book pages. I paint them with a variety of patterns and designs to get exactly what I want. I sort the
papers by color on a set of colored trays to keep everything organized,” she explained.
Then the work of building the portrait begins. Garner first paints an underpainting to help guide
her. Then she begins to build by placing small torn pieces of paper and gluing as she goes along. “I
always start with the background and then build the figure. It takes a lot of work to get the depth and
texture of soft fur,” she added. “I live with the work and decide if I’ve captured the animal’s essence. I
ask, ‘Is it coming alive?’ I add more collage and tweak the work to solve problems. I add more rice paper
to give it more depth.”
Libby is Garner’s muse. “She inspires my creativity. She encourages me to take breaks and to
have an occasional treat while working. Libby has a designated spot in my studio and always
accompanies me when I’m creating,” Garner smiled.
Garner encourages everyone to try art. “Try something with a subject matter you enjoy,
whatever media you choose. Art is about the process not the outcome,” she summed up.